3. A Box Among the Stars

A note: this is a continuation of the story begun here: The Old Woman, the Stag, and Me, and continued here: The Howling Woman. You may wish to read those segments first, or to take this piece in itself.

We’d always been able to travel. I did it by accident a few times by keeping the water in my pool too cold when I was dowsing for inner silence. But the truth is it was a hassle; it often went wrong, and we became so settled in our little village that the occasion just never arose that we wanted to shift again. I did miss the transition between worlds though. It was the most beautiful thing: on reaching a tranquil state of equilibrium, the traveller would find herself in a box among the stars.

The box was a cube measuring around 3m on all sides. It could manifest with any combination of unembellished, opaque black walls and transparent ones; the more of the latter, the better as far as I was concerned but I know six sides of transparency made the old woman feel quite queasy. For me, there was an infinite sort of comfort in being weightless, and seeing nothing but a million twinkling lights stretched before me on a etheric velvet veil. It is the loneliest place I can imagine but also the closest I have been to that abstract concept you call ‘home’. Unfortunately hanging about up there for long stretches of time (if time did indeed exist up there, which I doubt) was never really on the agenda of consciousness. I found if I didn’t bring to mind my intended path quickly, and make the required entranceway, I would be hurled into a random dreamscape. A doorway would open and swallow me up into a vacuum and I wouldn’t know where I was going to end up. That wasn’t the kind of risk I liked to take. Continue reading “3. A Box Among the Stars”

2. The Howling Woman

This is a continuation of the story that began here: The Old Woman, the Stag and Me. You may like to read that first if you haven’t already, but it isn’t a prerequisite.


As it turned out, it was the materialisation of the myth ‘The Howling Woman’ that finally gave us our omen to leave the village. Here’s how events panned out.

Among the stag’s clients there was a gentle dowager who cried almost all of the time. She had lost her daughter, she said, though there were no records of her ever having one. It was generally surmised among the village folk that what she had lost was in fact her marbles, as a result of her husband coming to grief at a trial for treason and subsequently being hanged. She lived all alone in the years that followed, and most were disdainful towards her with no rational cause. She came to the stag for a finding potion, and begged of him to take her sorrow.

Finding potions weren’t known for their usefulness when dealing with people who didn’t exist, so at first he went down the route of anguish-removal. He tried spells made from Buddhist proverbs, in attempt to align her to the idea that sorrow, like pleasure, was a fleeting thing that must be allowed to come and go like the wind. He tried filling her with warming light, that it might kindle her own inner glow. And he tried an elixir – just two drops per day – made from pure euphoria and tears of joy. It was unheard of for such things to fail, but the daughter remained lost. Putting on a jester performance raised a smile or two, but the sadness in her eyes seemed insurmountable.

Continue reading “2. The Howling Woman”

1. The Old Woman, the Stag, and Me

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We lived harmoniously for some years; the old woman, the stag and me. We took a small castle on the hill for our own. I say small when it was tiny really, with just one room on each of its four floors, but it was enough for us.

The old woman took the lower floor, beneath the receiving hall which was at ground level. Being underground, it was the most spacious of the rooms, so much so that it housed a swimming pool at the centre of beautiful chapel-like architecture. There were six pillars around the pool, and an altar facing east. It was always lit in such a way that it felt grandiose, yet soft and homely all at once. The old woman was wizened, and wore thick black robes and a veil that made her terrifying in appearance if she was in a bad mood. Her moods used to hang around the whole castle like a thick fog, and we had to open all the windows lest it might get onto our lungs. We could hardly blame her for it though, given all that she had seen. It was the dark side of her immense wisdom, which to her credit she most often used with the care and compassion of a loving grandparent.

Continue reading “1. The Old Woman, the Stag, and Me”